India’s Education Sector Needs A New Avatar, A Contemporary Approach

India’s Education Sector Needs A New Avatar, A Contemporary Approach

Disruption has been the talk of the town recently. With frequently thrown around words like ‘startup’ and ‘funding’, disruption too has become a part of the entrepreneurial vernacular.

Disruption has been throwing around itself across various sectors and levels, making one re-imagine everything that is going around him. One sector that hasn’t been much in touch with it is Education. Waiting to be knocked by a disruptive opportunity, this sector has been longing for an innovative approach.

Need of the Hour

The question that always is resonating within is, why are our institutions and universities imparting knowledge to the old avatar that does not exist anymore? Isn’t our youth becoming smarter learner?

With the largest college-age population in the world — close to an overwhelming 125 million, it is astonishing that less than one in five of them is going ahead with post-secondary education as opposed to 90% in the US. Will India be able to achieve its GDP growth targets at this rate? No. Will we need to double our participation rates in higher education in the next five-ten years? Yes.

So can this massive gap be filled with offline, brick-and-mortar college and university models? Again, the answer is obvious. Look at the challenges.

Firstly, it takes four-eight years to set up one campus/university and at its peak it could cater to 5,000 -10,000 students.

Secondly, trainers and teachers are needed to feed into these facilities, which have to be top-notch, both quality and quantity wise, with many of them being in remote areas or away from cities.

Thirdly, the cumulative outlay at scale for private or public-private partnership models to cater to the entire college-going population will be nothing short of $100 billion.

Fourth, over half of these 125 million youngsters, I believe, will be compelled to take up a job very early in life for socio-economic reasons and may not have the flexibility to go back to college after that.

This is where; online education comes into the picture in the form of a big disruptor. However, it being filled with a host of challenges, this thought offers more than exponential solutions:

  1. It can reach the remotest parts of India;
  2. It can easily assemble and aggregate the best faculty as everyone from the offline world can participate with much less demand on their time and lastly our youth can stay in their jobs while continuing to learn.

Online education can come off as an effective solution to the mammoth challenge of educating the youth of our country, often referred to as the youngest nation in the world, by bringing in disruption in traditional education. What one should fear is, failure in creating equal opportunities and access to the best learning/upskilling/upgrading centres for our ambitious and aspiring youth; the demographic dividend of the country can turn into demographic debt.

Skill India too has a goal to train over 400 million people by 2022 and this audacious outreach can be achieved only by radical disruptive thinking and bold execution. But, simply copying the traditional teaching methodology, will not create any success in the online space. As the demographics of professional education and post-graduation look for flexibility and augmentation, these sub-sectors would prove to be a cornerstone. For early years and K-12, brick-and-mortar schools will continue to play a big role in the holistic development of the child and online education will only be a supplement.

Five-Year Plans

In order for it to be disruptive as well as successful, online education will evolve into becoming a digital first medium.  We’ll have to not just integrate technology to enable a much higher and efficient learning atmosphere but also evade the possibility of becoming just another glorified content library to be browsed through occasionally. It will have to grow and develop to involve peer-to-peer discussions, alumni interactions, group studies and more. It’s evolution from being regarded, as an isolated individual learning platform to a social platform where exchange of ideas can truly become a possibility is a must for its sustenance.

There is a need for constant upgradation of ones skills and knowledge, as we head steadily towards the realisation that in today’s day and age, what we learn will hold less and less relevance after five years. Convergence of new forms of learning will be the fuel for and engine of economic growth. Universities need to develop programmes that are linked closely with employer demands. Otherwise, the results will be disastrous: while job seekers overspend on education programmes that are less likely to result in ideal employment opportunities, employers will be hiring poor fits.

We need to change the mind-sets of multiple stakeholders — academia, companies, students, young professionals and, most importantly, families — because how we learn and whom we learn from have transformed. Our dependence on experts and figures of authority has diminished while our ability to learn from each other has risen dramatically. The sheer amount of opportunities for learning and personal growth makes me wish I was back in college today.

Author

Ronnie Screwvala is a first-generation entrepreneur who pioneered cable TV in India, built one of the largest toothbrush manufacturing operations and went on to create a media & entertainment conglomerate – UTV – spanning television, broadcasting, digital, mobile and motion pictures, which he divested to The Walt Disney Company in 2012. Onto his second innings, Ronnie is driven by his interest in championing entrepreneurship and is also focussed on building his next set of ground-up businesses in high growth and impact sectors. His online education business, UpGrad, is focussing on post-graduation, higher studies and specialisation areas. Today, UpGrad offers online courses on entrepreneurship, data analytics, digital marketing and angel investing.
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